Right to Dream (R2D) is a charity that offers hand-picked, underprivileged young Ghanaian footballers a fully-funded, five-year education on and off the field. It empowers them to believe in themselves by encouraging them to emulate their African heroes. R2D believes that the boys will one day invest back into the communities and the continent they have come from.
CEO Anna Hegley tells us that R2D has a holistic approach to education which is aimed at nurturing the student, the athlete and the child. What she doesn’t tell us is that the curriculum at R2D has football at its very core. Headmaster George Jamieson, from Paisley, just outside of Glasgow, says that “the kids don’t know where Paisley is. They don’t know about Kilmarnock or Queen of the South but they know all about the Old Firm — they know who Rangers and Celtic are. You see, our curriculum is a nice marriage of what they are really interested in (football) and the academic side.” Everything at R2D is related to football. “The more you can integrate football into the curriculum the more alive it becomes and the more children will take hold of it and the more they will learn.” “Take mathematics” says Doc George, as he’s affectionately known here, “The ball is round so it is a sphere. It’s a globe and you can start taking radius off of it, and so you can talk about physics. If you kick the ball on its side why does it go in that trajectory?”
What about geography? The World Cup provides a great opportunity for the boys to learn about the world through the World Cup. One of my first memories as a child growing up in New Zealand was of a giant 1982 World Cup poster hanging at home on our kitchen wall. I can vividly remember the flags of the 24 competing nations. I can remember watching World Cup games and learning for the first time about countries like Brazil and Honduras and I can remember the goals that Paolo Rossi scored to take Italy to the World Cup. Indeed, my desire to see the world was perhaps sparked by the bedtime geography football questions posed by my dad to my brother and me.
The kids at R2D are learning about the world through the World Cup too. Each of them is responsible for researching one country that has qualified for the 2010 World Cup and it is their job to inform the others about that country: politically, culturally, socially — even eating habits. For example, what is the national dish in New Zealand? The kids then have to prepare and cook the food from that country for their school mates.
The classrooms of the school are all about empowering the youngsters to take control of their own destiny. Each classroom is named after a black person who has made a huge difference for the black community. “We want the boys to know that they have got champions out there. There are people out there they can emulate”, said Doc George. Those heroes are people like Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Mohammed Ali and Martin Luther King. Some of the graduates have gone on to win scholarships to universities in the United States of America, others have signed professional contracts at top European clubs. The boys may come from isolated communities in a small, underdeveloped country in an enormous continent but with an education from R2D they are on the right path to achieving success on and off the field.
The Ball is round and so is the earth.